Why We Need To Rethink Online Reviews, Not Remove Them


We have a limitless supply of content in our pockets. But we seldom find the time to read the full story. A glance at the comments section of any shared news article with accompanying clickbait headline will reveal that many of the outraged users have not even read the offending article. Opinions and judgments were formed by the title alone.

In an always-online world where we are bombarded with a deluge of information, it can be quite daunting to keep up to speed with multiple daily narratives. As the holiday seasons gathers pace, many will be creating wishlists based on the review scores of movies, books, games, and music. But, on many occasions, consumers won’t even read the review and scroll straight down to the rating out of five or ten.

Poor Rating Completed.com

Polygon recently announced that it was joining Eurogamer and Kotaku by dropping review scores of video games from its reviews. In a bid to encourage gamers to get back to reading the thoughts and opinions of the authors, it replaced ratings with simple terms such as ‘Recommended or ‘Essential.’

The problem is that after living on a diet of snackable content, many feel they don’t have time to digest a 1000+ word review of anything. All entertainment-focused journalism looked in danger as users lazily look for aggregated scores on sites such as Metacritic where they can view all the ratings in one place.

With so much at stake, there have predictably been rumors around some publications accepting payment for high ratings and a practice known as review brushing. It often feels like we have to triple-check everything that we read for authenticity to ensure it’s free from any hidden agenda.

Another example is the situation that occurred when online trolls took a disliking to Amy Schumer’s political views. Redditors collectively set out to destroy the reputation of her new show by bringing the average review down to 1.5 stars. What was the outcome? Netflix decided to remove or customer-submitted reviews of shows and movies.

Once again, it was replaced with the option to give something a thumbs up or a thumbs down. But the problem with this dumbed down approach where everything is either good or bad, is that real life is just not like that. What if this new thumbs up or down approach found itself being carried into the workplace too?

Thumbs up Thumbs Down

In the world of business, the backbone of any performance review should be about providing constructive criticism of their employee’s performance. When done right it can be influential for career development. Get it wrong, and you run the risk of demotivating your staff, and they will quickly retreat to a defensive and even resentful position.

Almost every business book you read will highlight the importance of celebrating your unique self and authentic voice. However, many find the prospect of embracing being imperfect and vulnerable to be terrifying. But, we need to remember that the days of having a job for life are gone and adopting a continuous learning mindset is somehting that should be celebrated rather than feared.

The alternative is to continue exaggerating our capabilities and telling little white lies on our résumés and professional profiles. These are just a few reasons why Michael Zammuto set out to create somehting different, a truly meritocratic society with Completed.com.

Zammuto bravely dared to explore what value could be obtained by enabling professionals to rate and review each other based on their encounters in business. The concept is to ensure those that work hard and produce good work are finally rewarded. But they are also provided with constructive feedback to help them improve.

Although it feels much simpler having everything neatly scored and rated, it’s the crucial information and feedback that provides the real value. Sure, customer feedback and online reviews currently have a terrible reputation. But, without constructive and trusted feedback it’s businesses, customers and even your own career that could suffer in the long run.

Both the online ratings and professional review landscape are currently broken. But, it’s not time to retire them. It’s time to try something different. Rather than showcasing highlight reels on professional networks maybe we should try promoting an honest depiction of ourselves and potential hires.

It seems that somewhere along the line we have lost our way and become obsessed with people, products and services that have the perfect score against their name. The reason we need to rethink online reviews and not remove them is that they should be used to pinpoint areas of weakness and pave the way for improvements.

Without reviews, we can only expect more of the same, and nobody wants that. Right?

Tech Columnist, Writer, Blogger and Podcaster featured in @HuffingtonPost @TheNextWeb @Inc @ZDnet & LinkedIn Top Voice on Technology https://lists.linkedin.com/2015/top-voices/technology?trk=ranking-overview-b-ind#.


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